How Long Will It Be Before Renters Return?
By Anthony Paradiso
Just days before the WestView News September deadline, I realized I could write about the decrease in residential rents. How would I be able to get quotes? I started calling the real estate agencies that operate in the West Village and telling them I was looking to rent an apartment. Douglas Elliman answered my call and put me in touch with an agent. I asked the realtor how rents have changed over the last five months in the West Village. The realtor texted me this: “The West Village has been somewhat protected because it is such a desirable neighborhood,” and added that rents have decreased by “10% or 15 %.”
Because this quote was all I was able to get out of the realtor, I wanted to see what I could learn on my own. So, I searched “renting apartments in NYC.” I scrolled down the page until I saw two tweets that linked to two stories written about the drop in rents. One was from the New York Times, which had the headline “Manhattan Vacancy Rates Climb, and Rents Drop 10%,” while the second linked to an article in the Daily Mail, titled “Number of Vacant Rental Apartments in New York Surges to its Highest Point on Record and Rents Drop 10% as Residents Keep Fleeing the City Amid Crime and COVID Nightmare.”
I guess a story just doesn’t seem real until the Times smacks you in the face with it. Anyone knows that renters have left the city due to COVID-19. However, this disturbing trend was highlighted in the article, which said that there were “more than 67,300 units available in July across the city, according to Street Easy, the most apartments available in any month since the listing started tracking rental inventory in 2010.”
Street Easy is a popular listing site that makes it easy for people to go online and see what apartments are available to buy or rent. I went to the site and searched for rentals under $5,000 in the West Village and Greenwich Village. Over a thousand results popped up, including a one-bedroom apartment at 16-18 Charles Street. In May, it had been listed for $3,850, but as of August 20th its price had dropped almost 14.5 percent to $3,295.
Then, I found a one-bedroom at 60 East 8th Street that had dropped 16.6% from April to July. The apartment’s location was Georgetown Plaza on 8th Street between Broadway and Mercer Street. If it was so desirable, people would be willing to pay the $5,400 it was going for in April, right? Well not exactly. After looking through the apartment’s price history I found that, since June, the realtor had lowered the price seven times and was renting it for $4,500, as of August 20th.
In the Times article, Matthew Haag described how “the surge in supply has driven down rental costs across the city and forced landlords to offer generous concessions, including up to three months’ free rent and paying the expensive fees brokers command.” According to Street Easy, the Charles Street apartment was offering “no fee and one month free on a one-year lease.”
In accordance with the principle of supply and demand, the residential rental market has seen a rise in supply and a huge fall in demand. Once the pandemic ends, I hope people who left during COVID-19 will feel safe enough to return to live and work in the city, but landlords and the government need to do two things first: we need more rent-controlled apartments, and we need reforms of commercial lease regulations. I hope we can all get together and make this happen.